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Colombia16 May 2003

Police accused of spying on news weekly for the benefit of interior and justice minister

Reporters Without Borders today voiced deep concern about an alleged case of police spying on the weekly El Espectador implicating interior and justice minister Fernando Londoño Hoyos.

In a letter to public prosecutor Edgardo Maya, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard asked to be kept informed of progress in the investigation announced by the prosecutor’s office.

"This is an extremely serious matter," Ménard said in the letter. "Spying on the news media violates the confidentiality of sources, the founding principle of investigative journalism."

In a report on 11 May, El Espectador said a member of the secret service of the police obtained a copy of the first draft of an investigative piece by the weekly on alleged irregularities in the Banco del Pacífico. The piece, which was later published, claimed that loans were made to people linked to the bank’s board of governors in 1997 when Londoño was chairman

The weekly alleged that the police director general, Gen. Teodoro Campo, gave the copy of the first draft to Londoño. The minister has denied this, saying he received it anonymously, in an unmarked envelope. Gen. Campo has denied any involvement.

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